My close friend and former colleague, Kerry Walters, just posted a version of the 'five books' question on Facebook: 'Besides religious scripture, which five books would you choose as central to the well-lived life?' 

I chose, in no particular order:
1) Spinoza's Ethics
2) Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain
3) Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov
4) Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
5) Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra

If I could be permitted a runner-up (or two), I'd also list Søren Kierkegaard's Works of Love, and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's What is Philosophy?

What about you? 
I'd be lying if I said I weren't envious of the speed and quality with which Nail writes! Here's his latest, due out with Edinburgh University Press next year. 

From the website: 

The most original and shocking interpretation of Lucretius in the last 40 years

Thomas Nail argues convincingly and systematically that Lucretius was not an atomist, but a thinker of kinetic flux. In doing so, he completely overthrows the interpretive foundations of modern scientific materialism, whose philosophical origins lie in the atomic reading of Lucretius' immensely influential book De Rerum Natura.

This means that Lucretius was not the revolutionary harbinger of modern science as Greenblatt and others have argued; he was its greatest victim. Nail re-reads De Rerum Natura to offer us a new Lucretius--a Lucretius for today.

Read the Introduction and TOC here.

When President Trump last week 'declared', by presidential fiat, that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel, his intentions were pretty clear. Ratchet up the tension of an already volatile situation; provoke animosity and, by extension, violence; use that violence to support an agenda of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism. I would predict that before the day is out, we will be regaled with tweets about the Muslim ban, border security, and very likely, the necessity of Roy Moore, (the Alabama candidate who's as racist and depraved as the president himself). 
This past semester, I taught my Intro to Philosophy course as a course on 'God, Death, and the Meaning of Life.' One of the texts we read was Simone de Beauvoir's A Very Easy Death, which chronicles her own experiences with the death of her mother. This text is profoundly moving, and I return to it on this day: 'When someone you love dies you pay for the sin of outliving her with a thousand piercing regrets. Her death brings to light her unique quality; she grows as vast as the world that her absence annihilates for her and whose whole existence was caused by her being there; you feel that she should have had more room in your life - all the room, if need be.'

It's been two years since I lost my mother. It was a Thursday evening, and I had just finished screening the film Match Point for my Dostoevsky seminar, when the text messages began to come in. My aunt texted me the following words: "Hey I am so sorry. You need anything let me know", and the dread overtook me. I knew that something very bad must have happened, not just because of the tenor of the message, but also because my aunt very rarely texts me at all. Then I heard my wife pacing outside the classroom, and it was ultimately my wife who told me that she had passed. Two years later, and it's still such a strange feeling. The sense of loss and of absence - that sense of a hole in one's identity - never really goes away (or at least it hasn't for me yet); you just get more accustomed to it. 

                                               ‘…Je vous aime et vous souris d’où que je sois.’

                                      ‘… I love you and am smiling at you from wherever I am.’

                                                                    —Jacques Derrida
As of today, it's official! Deleuze and Derrida: Difference and the Power of the Negative is going to production! Looking forward to seeing the finished project sometime in 2018!

Trump has now come out more or less absolving Roy Moore for his crimes, you know, the crimes concerning his efforts to sexually assault children. 'Look, he denies it,' Trump said. 

I cannot say that I am surprised; nothing that this despicable vulgarian does or says anymore surprises me. Literally nothing. I have finally realized that nothing is out of bounds for this soulless, unprincipled wretch. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand the fawning, unwavering support of evangelicals in this country for this disgusting degenerate, or for the vile things that he stands behind. 

Let's just recap. At this time, unless I am mistaken, eight different women have come forward against Moore, women who did not know each other beforehand, and who did not, themselves, reach out to the media to share their stories. (That discredits the 'they're doing it for political reasons' argument). Their stories are strikingly similar - Roy Moore pursued sexual relations with them when they were in their early teenage years, and when Moore himself was in his thirties. There is indisputable evidence that he wrote something inexcusably creepy in the yearbook of a sixteen-year-old girl. Some of his acquaintances have said that he was known to date teenagers. He himself did not deny outright to Hannity that he dated teenagers!!!!!! Moreover, he has outright admitted that he first 'noticed' his wife when she was fifteen, when he would have been twenty-nine. But this is not the most perplexing part of this story. Though disgusting and despicable, I can at least understand the depravities of one man (or in this case, two, given the now complicity of Donald J. Trump). But I cannot understand the continuing evangelical support of Roy Moore, or of Donald Trump. While Moore's guilt has not been proven in a court of law, I think it is safe to say that the court of public opinion should be well beyond the 'wait and see' mode on this man. But not for our president. And why not? Well, simple... because it was hurting him with his base. His base that includes the increasingly inscrutable evangelical community. 

Ministers have come out in defense of Moore. Some of them have even said that even if he did the things he's accused of, there's no wrong in it, because Joseph was much older than Mary. Many of Moore's supporters are simply calling the accusers liars, and much of the evangelical community continues to support a PEDOPHILE, for God's sake!!!!!!!! This is the same group who wants to deny the marital rights of homosexual, consenting adults. They want to make sure that transgender persons cannot use the bathrooms that they want to (and why not? Oh, that's right... because they're afraid of pedophiles). But when there's an ACTUAL pedophile running for the United States Senate, (so long as there's a freaking 'R' next to his name), they defend and make excuses. 

I come from the evangelical community, I understand (or I thought I did) that community, and I have defended, on many occasions, that community. Though I disagree with their religious views, and the politics that they espouse (Jesus never once mentions abortion or homosexuality, but he discusses greed and poverty all the time), I have nevertheless always respected the fact that they were principled in their convictions. And I understand why they feel like the coastal elites are snobs who look down their noses at them, and I even understand why they turned to Donald Trump in the last election. But there is no defense for continuing to justify his actions, or those of Roy Moore. The evangelical community, who once impeached Bill Clinton for cheating on his wife, has now elected a president who cheated on two wives, leaving them for younger women; has boasted on tape about sexually assaulting women, (a boast for which he never apologized); and who has admitted to using his power as the owner of the Miss America pageant to walk into the dressing rooms while the contestants were naked - a fact that has been corroborated by some of those contestants; and this community is now supporting, in large numbers, a man who, the evidence strongly suggests, pursued sexual relations with children. This shows that their principles are only as strong as the political winds. There is simply no honor in defending the indefensible. And there is really no Christian virtue in it. To paraphrase your messiah, the time has come to choose: God or Caesar.  
Every Thanksgiving, I like to go back and read this piece in the USA Today, written by my colleague and friend, Steve Gimbel. Satirically pointing out that the notion of pausing our lives to reflect, in gratitude, on what we have runs counter to the American doctrine of 'more,' 'more,' 'more,' Gimbel argues that the real holiday is the day after Thanksgiving. For it is on this day that the holiday shopping season begins, when the real American spirit is celebrated. But in place of the ominously titled 'Black Friday,' Gimbel proposes the holiday title, 'Thanksgetting,' to commemorate and anticipate the obligatory 'thank you' we mindlessly utter as we're opening our umpteenth gift from the umpteenth relative we haven't seen since the last holiday season. It's interesting to note that, since the time that Gimbel wrote this piece, (four years ago), 'Black Friday' has encroached more and more upon the Thanksgiving holiday. Time was, you'd go out to the stores at 2 or 3 in the morning, to line up for the openings of the doors. Nowadays, 'Black Friday' sales begin mid-evening on Thanksgiving itself. It seems that America has begun taking Gimbel's advice, cutting larger and larger chunks out of the day of thanks. It's a good thing, too. I mean, come on... do we really need a whole day to be grateful?